Stellar Wind determined and lucky in Summertime Oaks

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Jen Caldwell

June 21st, 2015

Stellar Wind (Curlin) had an eventful return to competition in Saturday’s Summertime Oaks (G2) at Santa Anita Park, but showed her class to emerge a nose winner over a very stubborn Tara’s Tango (Unbridled’s Song).

The 1 1/16-mile race lost four runners through scratches, including last-out 3 1/4-length stakes scorer Fantastic Style (Harlan’s Holiday), and another after the gates opened when the saddled slipped on Roksana (Eskendereya).

Jockey Felipe Valdez was forced to wrangle his wayward mount to the outside and Roksana nearly ended up taking out Grade 3-placed Scat Means Go (Scat Daddy) when coming over on that rival, carrying her wide entering the first turn and forcing her to take up.  Roksana was eventually caught by the outrider and eased nearing the second turn.

Stellar Wind got lucky in that she missed the entire incident, but it was a close shave. After Roksana bumped with Scat Means Go, Valdez battled to stay in control and managed to pull her up somewhat. That just prevented Roksana from running up onto Stellar Wind’s heels as she moved past Scat Means Go on the outside.

The replay shows jockey Victor Espinoza taking a glance behind as Valdez tries to maintain some steering on Roksana. Stellar Wind had broken from the far outside post and was making her way to the front.

After that the Summertime Oaks settled down a bit. Stellar Wind took up position to the outside of Tara’s Tango, who was tracking just off the flank of pacesetter Conquest Curlgirl (Curlin) with recent Melair S. romper Sheer Pleasure (Birdonthewire) down on the rail to her inside.

Nearing the final turn, Scat Means Go put in her move and ranged up to Stellar Wind’s outside but almost immediately began falling back again. Stellar Wind and Tara’s Tango had both begun their moves and quickly drew even with Conquest Curlgirl through the turn.

Those three continued battling into the stretch before Stellar Wind and Tara’s Tango began drawing off from Conquest Curlgirl. Sheer Pleasure was putting in her best run behind, but it was a clear match race up front.

Tara’s Tango briefly got her head in front of Stellar Wind, who gamely battled back on the outside. It turned into a head bob on the wire but Stellar Wind was clearly coming back on her rival. The pair ended up galloping out together well past the wire.

According to trainer John Sadler, Stellar Wind was doing well Sunday following the hard-fought victory and could wind up in the rich $1 million Cotillion S. (G1) at Parx Racing on September 19.

"The Cotillion is one we'd consider. I like that track," Sadler told the Santa Anita press box.

That move nearly worked for Close Hatches in 2013 as Bill Mott used the 1 1/16-mile contest as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). Close Hatches captured the Cotillion before running second to dual champion Beholder, who is back this year for another shot at Breeders’ Cup glory after missing the 2014 edition due to illness.

Stellar Wind has her work cut out for her in the year-end championship with Beholder back in action, not to mention there’s still plenty of time for reigning Distaff champion Untapable to turn her game around. That four-year-old filly has finished second in two of her three starts this year and is gearing up for Saratoga. Tara’s Tango could prove to be another hurdle with the way the gray miss fought her down the stretch.

Stellar Wind proved her mettle at the beginning of the season, and again on Saturday, but is going to have to continue improving if she hopes to keep up with both her elders and some new rising stars. However, the chestnut miss has both the ability and talent to do just that. 

Benoit Photo: Stellar Wind (left) and Tara's Tango